Its that time of the month again, when Helen@The Patient Gardener hosts the End of Month View meme. I love the chance to have a nose around other people’s gardens, but I love the discipline of taking a long hard critical look at my own garden – or bits of it – even more.

I currently use the post as a time to review progress in my pond bed and what I call the Magnolia bed – I am so good at imaginative names for my borders… Actually, I don’t really “do” naming of things, our camper van being one notable exception, but I do need labels that are easily understood to identify bits of garden. How else would my nearest and dearest know which bit of garden I was whittering on to them about?!

Pond Bed

The pond bed is still full of gaps, large patches uncovered by mulch, and littered with pots. Some of these actually have plants in them, others merely serve as markers for where plants too small to put in (or as yet unbought) will go. However, it has been so ridiculously dry that I have been holding off planting up until we are promised some rain. I’m not sure this makes sense any more, they keep saying “tomorrow” and then changing their minds, and anyway, I need the pots, so I may just buckle down and get on with it this weekend.

Dying Ballerina
Dying Havren

The bed is in that annoying gap, between the last of the early bulbs and the first of the real Spring rush. Most of the colour is coming from the dying tulips, which have their own beauty, and although there are buds about to break out on the Astrantias and Knautia macedonica, and the very dark aquilegias are starting to flower, I am cross. You see, this was going to be the year that I finally conquered the gap. By now there was to have been a beautiful lacy cloud of Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ threading through aquilegias in dark purple and blue. I completely failed to grow any of the anthriscus, the blue aquilegias aren’t going to flower this year, and I talked myself out of buying yet more seed – orange aquilegias – which would actually have been rather wonderful right now. I shouldn’t complain, it was worse last year:

Pond Bed April 2010

I’d just started the revamp, and anyway things are more advanced this year due to the strangely summery weather. The problem is that tension that you feel, looking at something that actually isn’t that bad, knowing that in your mind’s eye it is so much better. So I am trying to enjoy the lush Spring foliage…

Spring Growth

…and the promise of things to come…

Blurry Astrantia

…although trying to photograph an emerging astrantia flower in a stiff breeze generates rather blurred results.

Magnolia Bed

The magnolia bed is looking rather less colourful just at the moment too. The tree itself has finished flowering and is now covered in these wonderfully weird seeds:

Magnolia Seeds

The honesty has almost finished flowering, but the seedpods are developing well and will soon add a touch of magic to this patch:

Developing Honesty Seedpods

Colour will soon come from the Sweet Rocket, which has chosen to ignore the information that it grows to a height of 45cm (1.5′) and is over double that, but at least it means that the bed is performing one of its roles rather better than I feared it would this year. When you enter the garden by the side path the magnolia bed is the first thing you see. When I originally put the pergola in, and started planning the planting, I wanted to make sure you couldn’t see everything immediately. Its hard to create a sense of mystery in such a small space, but I at least wanted to ensure that anyone sat under the pergola would be screened by the foliage planted in this border. This worked wonderfully well when it was planted with a Choisya ternata, a sadly dead acer, the also defunct Pittosporum and a rather wonderful purple Phormium tenax. Of that original planting only the Magnolia – now a tree rather than a shrub – remains. Everything else either died or outgrew the space. So I am chuffed that a year on from clearing the bed of the dead and dying and over large, it is once more screening the pergola quite effectively.

Magnolia Bed As Screen

(The giant and very ugly garden thermometer was bought as a joke for TNG when we lived on Anglesey, but is now much loved by MIL who can see how cold it is from the warmth of the kitchen in the morning before heading off to work.)

There are a few things in this border giving me great pleasure right now. One of them is the creeping Phlox, which lights up the space, a truly elegant plant.

Phlox stolonifera

I love it, and thanks to Gail@Clay and Limestone I have now added another Phlox to my wishlist, ‘David’, a white and very fragrant form that is shade tolerant. I was going to try it in my pond border, having also failed to germinate any Cenolophium denudatum, but I think in form it might work better in this small gap by the decking, where it would act as a kind of full stop and would spread its fragrance right by a seating area:

Small gap in Magnolia bed

The other source of delight is my oak leaved hydrangea. I was really worried about it back in January, but the foliage is looking magnificent.

Hydrangea quercifolia foliage

Best of all, it looks as if it is going to flower, which will be the first time, so I think I have finally found it a home it is really happy in. You never know, I may even get autumn colour from it too!

Hydrangea quercifolia Flower bud

One thing I am not sure what to do about is this rather large gap:

Big gap in Magnolia bed

To put it in context, this is the view you get as you walk down the side path before you turn the corner.

Shed view

When I put the shed up last May we talked about training a climber up the side of it and planting something largish in front. The purlpish growth you can see in the foreground above is the Eupatorium ‘Chocolate’, which will hide the gap by mid summer, but I know it is there, hate wasting the space, and have the perfect plant. We had agreed to just bung in some foxgloves and see what we thought given that we are planning to move in the not too distant future, but I have this wonderful purple hazel that I had to dig out of the border on the opposite side of the garden because it had got too big The hazel is currently sat happily in a very large pot. It would look great in this gap, but we want to take it with us when we move – I am now thinking about just burying the pot in the ground so that it looks planted but we can easily extract it again. What do you think? It is bound to root through the bottom – will I damage it when I lift it again? And please don’t ask me when we are going to move, I still have no idea, but hopefully we will be on our way this time next year. But we’ve thought that before and are still here…

52 thoughts on “End of Month View April 2011

  1. A fabulous record of what your garden is and is not doing – particularly useful to you the gardener but also inspiring for your readers who can follow your thought processes and the ideas you have. Despite the gaps, there is still so much going on. Love the creeping Phlox and am very taken with the Oak leaf hydrangea – did not realise they had such high impact gap filling foliage – I await the flowers with anticipation.

    1. Hi Laura, glad you enjoyed the post. The leaves on the hydrangea are wonderful, and huge! It is a truly lovely plant, the flowers should be spikes of white – I confess to hating mopheads, but these are eagerly anticipated…

  2. The pond area is looking nice now that things are “bulking-up” a bit. Better than you give yourself credit for! I love those Magnolia seeds. Do you think you would be able to persuade them to germinate in a propagator? I suppose that growing a Magnolia from seed would be a fairly long-term proposition (but probably worth it for the challenge!). The prospect of getting any significant rain still seems pretty distant, doesn’t it? Our weather at present is more typical of July than April.

    1. Hi Mark, I do love the Spring bulking, though I have noticed things stalling somewhat – as have so many others – with this long dry spell. I am going to look in to propagating the magnolia, if only for the challenge, though given my ornamental seed failures this year I am not holding out much hope. If I could just work out what I am doing wrong…

  3. An absolutely lovely set of photos, wonderful to see your garden! My favourite has to be your pond area – I’m trying to figure out how (and where) I can squeeze one in to the front gardens here between the flats – your photo has inspired me and has the wow factor! Nice to see your honesty in bloom; Gardens Illustrated have free honesty seeds this month and I was unsure whether to sow them. Now I’ll get them going asap! Thank you for sharing this with us!

    1. Hi Caro, how wonderful to have inspired you, thank you! Good luck with your pond plans, it was definitely the best thing I have ever added to the garden. This was my first year growing honesty (well, I sowed it last year, obviously…), and I am smitten – I already have some popping up to be grown on at the allotment ready for next year. How lovely to have free seed. I am hoping it will happily self seed around the bed, and perhaps wander off elsewhere in the garden too, it has been so pretty.

  4. Lovely post, Janet. Makes me want to have a wander round (with glass of white wine and perhaps some salted cashew nuts). Can you believe I’ve never grown honesty – must do so. I’ve been after an oak-leaved hydrangea for a while though. Handsome beast.

    1. Hello David, how lovely to have stirred that reaction – let me know when you are heading over and I will put a bottle on to chill! As I just said to Carol, I had never grown honesty before either, but will always want it now – and yes, do get an oak-leaved hydrangea, a magnificent plant even without the flowers.

  5. I have tons of eupatorium ‘Chocolate’ that has self-seeded all over the garden. If I didn’t pull the seedlings, it would take over! I also grow David phlox and it’s wonderful! Robert Poore phlox would do well by the shed. It’s very tall, grows well in partial shade, and attracts pollinators. If the soil is moist-ish, joe pye weed would also do well. Monarda woud also do well and attracts hummingbirds.

    1. Interesting – no signs of any of my Eupatorium having self seeded, though I am watching some new seedlings develop in the pond border with some interest, I’m pretty sure they are yet more Knautia though.Love the look of that Phlox, it would tuck in well to that space and injecy colour and fragrance, will look out for it at Malvern. Thank you! Mind you, we won’t get any hummingbirds… I have some Monarda seedlings, just not sure they will turn into robust plants. We’ll see!

  6. Good news on the Oak Leaf Hydrangea! Everything looks organized and healthy in your garden, even if you’re still in the process.

    1. Isn’t it? I was thrilled to see the flowers developing. Just hope everything stays looking healthy given the dry weather.

  7. I know exactly what you mean – the ground is too hard to dig and it is probably easier to look after new plants in pots but I do wonder if they are being held back.
    I love your oak leaf hydranga – now on my wish list

    1. Exactly! I hate keeping things in pots too long, and not just because I now need the pots for other things. I am now being promised rain on Thursday. If it is still promised by Wednesday, I may risk it. At least I am lucky enough to be adding to an already established border – April should be perfect for your new project, and instead you have hard-baked ground. Do get an oak-leaved hydrangea, it would work beautifully in your garden. On the slope, even! The leaves contrast beautifully with bamboos, a bit like Fatsia I guess.

    1. Thanks Damo – though I hope we get lots of lovely rain before we get to summer proper.

  8. Great tour Janet. I have trouble with flowers swaying in the breeze when I want a photo too!

    Our tulips are still hanging on but it has been fairly breezy for a couple of days so they won’t keep their petals for much longer now!

    1. Hi Sue, our strong breeze turned in to a gale over night which still hasn’t blown itself out – though it did wipe out one of my coldframes – so I no longer have petals on my tulips either, just orange confetti.

  9. Janet so glad to see you may plant phlox David…love the creeping phlox color and the gardens are beautiful…the pond is lovely….

    1. Hi Donna, David is on my Malvern list now, and I’m thinking about a pink one too… Glad you like the pond, I think it is my favourite thing in the garden – except when the Magnolia is flowering of course!

  10. I love the pond area – particularly the use of interesting pebbles; oh dear – it should be plants, and it is too, of course!

    Don’t know about the hazel – I must admit that I’d be tempted to leave it as it is; I lost some plants when I moved as a result of shifting them when they had decided they didn’t want to be shifted. I suppose it really depends on how long it might be in place… But the gap is tempting too…

    1. Hi Kate, am thrilled you like the pebbles, I spent ages choosing them so its nice to have them noticed!

      The hazel seems really happy where it is, and it adds a lovely touch of purple just where it is needed, so I think it stays in its pot until we take it to a new home. I’m thinking of adding Phlox to the gap instead, I hadn’t realised they will tolerate some shade, and Donna has done a great job on selling them as good for wildlife.

  11. Another lovely interesting post with great photos, thank you!

    I love the creeping phlox – will definately have to look that one out. You are lucky to have things in flower. My Astrantia is showing no buds at all. I had some Honesty seeds with my Gardens Illustrated this month but apparently it only flowers in the second year to I will have to evoke the gardener’s trait of patience!

    Thanks for the comments on my EMOV by the way. R

    1. Hi Ronnie, you’re welcome, I enjoy reading about your garden. Astrantias are funny – I have “Shaggy”, which is putting on wonderful leafy growth but isn’t even showing any flower buds, and “Hadspen’s Blood”, which is far less leafy and yet about to burst into full flower! And yes, Honesty is a biennial, though it self seeds well so I suspect you will only have to sow it and practice the patience thing once. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  12. Hello, lovely photos but i love the blurry astrantia the catches the breezes we have been having…and what did you call your camper van?…hopefully rain will come soon and hopefully in the night-time!

    1. Hi Mike, delighted you like the blurry Astrantia, though it is so windy here today that I wouldn’t even be able to get that much detail! The van is called Cameron, which TNG would claim is for Cameron Diaz, but is actually because it is green – so it is called after the man who is now our PM, because it may look green but it is only surface. VDubs cost a fortune to run, about as far from ecologically sensitive driving as you can get…

      Still waiting for rain – yesterday they were promising heavy showers on Thursday evening, now Thursday is going to be sunny but we might get a little light shower on Friday… I’ll believe it when I see it, and will probably dance around in it to celebrate.

  13. Thanks for showing us round your garden Janet. The photos are very good. I am sure the pond area is going to look even more stunning over the coming months. Guess what? We have had rain all night!!! The soil is a dream to work with again and l swear l can see everything growing before my very eyes! Have a great Bank Holiday.

    1. Jealous? Moi? No, no, not at all, I like long sunny dry days, hours spent watering, empty water butts… Though at least my heavy clay soil hangs on to what moisture there is pretty well. Murder on not yet established plants like, oh, say, most of the things on my allotment! So happy for you – no, no, no gritted teeth at all…

  14. How used to our own gardens we get,always wanting to improve, its just in our nature as gardeners. I love the look of your pond area and you have so many fantastic plants. Naming areas of the garden made me smile with familiarity. I decided we would do this a few years ago when I would say to Myra, perhaps we should plant an Azalea in that bitty of the garden at the bottom left behind the cherry tree. Now I may have gone over the top when I talk of, say my woodland area, when in actual fact it is an embankment.

    1. Thank you Alistair, I can get rather over critical at times, and besides, the pond bed is my experimental area, a playground for exploring colour combinations and getting to know new plants. I love your woodland area, and think that is a fine name for it!

  15. I’m so glad that you identified the astrantia because I’ve been wondering what it was! I’ve got lots of aqualegias as well; most of them wild ones which have planted themselves.
    I can’t believe that I’m saying this, but I actually WISH that it would rain! My daughter insisted on planting our veg garden last weekend, but one hates to plants anything new in these dry conditions.

    Rather than being “gappy,” my garden has been in full May bloom for a week now — with lilac, wisteria, peonies, clematis and many other May flowers out several weeks before their usual time.

    1. Its such strange weather, isn’t it. I’m seriously contemplating trying a rain dance – the veg garden is suffering greatly. I rather like the promiscuous nature of aquilegias, though like any self sown things they can wind up inserting themselves in to rather inconvenient spots. Your garden sounds rather fabulous – I hope everything flowers for longer than usual too, it would be awful to lose all that colour too soon.

  16. I really like how you’ve taken us through different areas of your garden. It’s so nice to get a sense of the space someone is gardening in.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Marguerite, I too really appreciate understanding the context within which someone gardens, and seeing how they combine plants too, rather than just beautiful close-ups. I learn so much that way.

  17. You have some lovely combinations happening just now Janet. I love the orange tulips with the purple Acer. I also rather want the photo of the Astrantia bud opening – it might be ‘softly’ focused but it would look great enlarged and framed! A really interesting read, I like hearing other peoples thought processes too.

    1. Hi Christina, I’m going to try the blurry astrantia as a card, I love it too, so thank you. The Ballerina + acer combination has got me thinking about how to repeat it elsewhere in the future, I wish I could claim prescience but it is a happy accident.

  18. You may think you have a gap between the spring blooms and summer color, Janet, but I think the garden is interesting now as well, seeing all the potential buds and anticipating what will appear next. Your oakleaf hydrangea certainly is looking robust and will surely provide you with lots of blooms later. Wish I could share some of our rain with you!

    1. Thank you Rose, I do love the fresh foliage and the about-to-open buds – I’m just greedy for more! I’d dearly love some of your rain, pity it doesn’t work like that.

  19. Your pond garden looks beautiful and will getting more so shortly. It is great to make a monthly record of your garden through a blog post. It’s all written down in print and picture.

    1. Hi Carolyn, thank you, that means a lot coming from you. And yes, the EOMV meme that Helen runs is proving excellent for helping me keep track of the garden and how it is developing.

  20. I’m so glad that your oak leaf hydrangea pulled though, how exciting that it’s going to flower for the first time. I love the seed heads of honesty, especially once they’ve gone silver and are paper thin. I remember my grandma having them as a dried flower arrangement when I was a child.

    1. Hi Jo, it is rather wonderful to see flower buds on something I thought might be dying! I am really looking forward to the transparent seedheads thing, though I’m not sure I will have enough to do the vase thing this year. I have sown plenty more for next year though.

  21. How is it that no matter hard we try we end up with bare patches? The alternative of installing plants look pretty much the same year round–as many of my neighbors have done–to me seems too dull for words, though, so I’ll live with the spots of brown, knowing there’ll be plenty of interesting distractions to pull your eyes away from them.

    1. I agree James, I need dynamism in a garden to keep me interested. I think I need to sow more things – and plant more bulbs in pots – to fill in the gaps as and when they arise. All a learning experience! The pond bed is my first large perennial border.

  22. Hi Janet,
    Looks to me as though the pond bed is maturing nicely, even just a year on from the before pic, and even the gaps look smart.
    Great to see that your oak-leaf hydrangea has put on such lovely growth, fingers crossed for more autumnal colour this year!

    1. Thanks Sara, I like the idea of “smart gaps”! I am excited about the hyrdangea, though maybe I should be content with flowers and not hope too much for Autumn colour as well… We’ll see! Now if it would just rain…

  23. I think the seed pods of the magnolias are very interesting! Love the bright red seeds in the fall.
    Your garden looks wonderful…love all the foliage and spring colors. My oakleaf hydrangrea is budding up as well, pretty exciting!

    1. Hi Janet, I am looking in to whether I could attempt to grow some baby magnolia trees from those extraordinary seeds. Glad to hear your oak leaf hydrangea is budding up well, I can begin to see glimpses of white on mine. Love it!

  24. Janet, I agree with David both on the great read and growing honesty. Funnily enough I had a pkt of seed in my hand the other day and put it back :-)

    What to add? I love your pond bed and I too have named areas in my garden for exactly the same reason. I’ve been giving my ‘Gunnera border’ a bit of a revamp.

    Your gap… my first thought was Foxgloves too. My second thought was an obelisk to give a bit of height and structure – perhaps a clematis growing up and through it that spills over and towards the ground again?

    Can’t answer you on the hazel. If it is really pot bound perhaps you could pot it up and sink that in the ground as a temp filler. Wishing you a good weekend :-D

    1. Hi Shirl, I like the obelisk idea, but at the moment I am tending towards a Phlox, as I’d love to attract more insect life into the garden. The hazel doesn’t seem to be at all pot bound, so I am going to leave it where it is, for fear of upsetting it. Besides, it is really heavy and with the ground rock hard from no rain all month digging a hole to bury the pot in is not something I can face right now! Have a lovely weekend.

    1. Hi Anna, at this time of year keeping up with blogs gets to be rather problematic, so thank you for taking the time to comment, and glad you enjoyed the view!

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